SYRIA—Vice President Mike Pence announced on Thursday, October 17, that Turkey and the United States agreed to a ceasefire in Syria, 11 days after President Trump retreated US troops from the border between northeastern Syria and Turkey.
Turkey and Syria have been at odds for almost a century. Tension between the two countries has existed since 1939. The Syrian Civil War damaged relations between the two countries, leading to serious incidents of violence transpiring daily between both countries.
On April 26, 2009, the two countries announced an “unprecedented” three-day military motion involving ground militia along their mutual border for the purpose of attempting to cooperate and work together. The exercise which commenced on April 27, 2009 involved teams from each country crossing the border to visit one another. The Syrian Defense Minister and the Turkish Defense Minister at the time signed a letter of intent giving the go ahead for cooperation in the defense industry as a sign of the level of political relations and maturity reached between the two countries.
Since the start of the Syrian Civil War in early 2011, relations between Syria and Turkey deteriorated. The civil war directly impacted Turkey in June 2011, when at least 3,000 Syrian refugees fled Syria due to the violence and conditions. On August 9, 2011, many news sites reported that Turkey sent its foreign minister to Syria to communicate that Turkey was becoming impatient with the “savagery” of the Syrian government. To show they were not lying, Turkey announced they were suspending all trade relations and agreements between Turkey and Syria.
Conflicts between the two countries intensified after violent encounters such as the Turkish pilgrim bus attack that occurred on November 21, 2011. During that incident, two buses carrying Turkish pilgrims returning from Saudi Arabia came under fire from Syrian soldiers. The attack occurred at a checkpoint near Homs, Syria and left two people injured.
On June 22, 2012, Syria shot down a Turkish Air Force jet near the Turkish-Syrian border. The Syrian military claimed the jet violated Syrian airspace, but the Turkish president stressed that minor and brief entrances into neighboring airspace by high-speed jets are common.
In August 2012, Turkey began to meet with the USA in order to develop a joint plan to replace the Syrian government for the purpose of reducing tension and violence.
On October 3, 2012, Turkey attacked troops in Syria after a Syrian artillery weapon killed five people. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan announced on October 5, 2012 that while they were not interested in a war, they were not far from it.
One of the deadliest attacks between both countries occurred on May 11, 2013 when two cars exploded in a Turkey town leaving at least 43 people dead and 140 injured. The car bombs were left outside the town hall and post office and exploded within 15 minutes of one another.
A new rule agreed to by both countries, would allow them to defend themselves if the other comes close to the mutual border, and if either country feels this action is indeed a threat. In recent years, due to an abundance of Syrian refugees, Turkish border guards have killed 60 Syrians as they were attempting to cross the border, including children.
Many fear that with this ceasefire and the constant chaos surrounding the two countries, many ISIS detainees that Syrian Kurds helped the US capture and fight off, will now have a chance to escape and create a new threat. There are approximately 11,000 ISIS male detainees, in addition to thousands of ISIS women and children, held in prisons created in Syria to help the US defeat the militant and terrorist group. The White House informed Turkey that they were now in charge of all ISIS detainees captured, but it is uncertain if Turkey agreed to this being their responsibility.
Another fear with the ceasefire is a possible future conflict that can create a new refugee crisis impacting both countries, as well as the United States.
The ceasefire will last for 120 hours to allow the Kurdish YPG forces to pull back about 20 miles from the Turkish border, as Turkey’s president demanded. The Kurds endured harsh discrimination in Syria, in addition to other locations as they are considered nationless, even being denied basic rights at times.
Turkey’s minister for foreign affairs, Mevlut Cavusoglu, stated it is no ceasefire, but more of a pause. The Kurds claim that as of Friday, October 18, 2019, Turkish soldiers continue to attack them, which President Trump claims was handled and stopped immediately.
The Kurds continue to state they will not surrender their land and call what the Turkish are trying to do as a form of ethnic cleansing. Per an ABC World News video, a Kurdish man said by President Trump abandoning his supporters and allies, he is a traitor and only looking out for his own benefit. The Kurdish have until Tuesday, October 22, to vacate their position or Turkey has threatened to attack.